• Group who traveled to South Africa

    Alumni and Students Connect in South Africa

    Wednesday, January 11, 2017
    News Type

Dartmouth alumni and students connect every day, but in early December a unique opportunity arose that put alumni and students together in South Africa.

Travelers on a Dartmouth Alumni Travel trip with Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Ryan Calsbeek joined students to explore the Sterkfontein Caves. The Caves, about an hour north of Johannesburg, are the source of several recent discoveries of early hominid remains and part of a paleoanthropological site that UNESCO has labeled the “cradle of humankind.”

The 15 students completing the experiential learning component of Anthropology 70: Experiencing Human Origins and Evolution led the alumni travelers through the caves and shared insights from the semester-long course, co-taught by Professor of Anthropology Nate Dominy and Associate Professor of Anthropology Jeremy DeSilva. The experience was part of an innovative new model of embedded courses.

Before they departed for South Africa, travelers got a taste of life in the field during a call with anthropology major Jessica Kittelberger ’18, who explained research techniques like using millet to measure the volume of skeletal craniums.

alumni and students in cave

After emerging from the caves, alumni travelers had a chance to strengthen their new friendships with Jessica and the other students over a traditional South African braai, or barbeque.

For the travelers, who spent 10 days exploring the history, culture, and environment of South Africa, the opportunity to learn alongside current Dartmouth students was an unexpected highlight that gave them yet another lens on the rainbow nation. According to Calsbeek, the excursion kept them buzzing for days.

Frequent Dartmouth alumni traveler Suzy Brennan agrees. “I loved the time with the Dartmouth students,” she said. “That was a real highlight for all of us travelers, and I believe the students enjoyed it as well.”

This meeting, while unique in its location, was not an unusual occurrence for Dartmouth alumni travelers. When possible, faculty leaders make a point of connecting with colleagues leading study abroad trips in the countries they visit. Alumni travelers have met with students during trips to Berlin and Vietnam. As more Dartmouth courses put theory to practice in communities around the world, Dartmouth Alumni Travel plans to give alumni a taste of these exciting encounters.

“We seek to align Dartmouth Alumni programming with student travel and research whenever we can,” says Robin Albing, director of lifelong learning. “It really enhances the experience for our travelers, and it’s always a high point for them.”  

All photos courtesy Eli Burakian ’00